FILE – In this Nov. 14, 2019, file photo, a woman checks her phone in Orem, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
UPDATED 8:00 AM PT — Saturday, February 22, 2020
An investigation by the New York Times revealed online child sex abuse is a “crisis at its breaking point.” Online child pornography is a crime so prevalent that law enforcement is struggling to keep up with it.
According to the recent report, child predators have been thriving with the current state of the web. The problem has gotten so bad that now, officials said the term child pornography doesn’t communicate the severity of the issue at hand. They said a better term to use is online child sex abuse imagery.
Last year, law enforcement received an astronomical amount of reports of online material showing exploited children. In 2014, the number of reports of this imagery passed one million for the first time. Four years later in 2018, that number increased to 18.4 million. Last year, that amount doubled to 45 million online child abuse reports.
Officials have said they are so overwhelmed with these types of cases, they have to first prioritize those where infants and toddlers are involved.
“Nobody wants to know that this dark side of humanity exists, and not just exists, but the scope of it,” stated Judy Smith, U.S. Attorney’s Office-District of Colorado. “The number of cases are an avalanche, we just feel like we’re dishing the ocean out with a spoon.”
Russia, Friday, April 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Even though law enforcement is doing its best to catch these predators, imagery they already possessed is still being circulated around the web, forcing victims to relive their abuse. In one case, the biological father of a child abused his daughter and documented that abuse for years. Though the father is behind bars now, the child’s mother said the images of her daughter are still being viewed by hundreds of predators across the country.
“Oh my gosh this person just in Kansas and New York, somebody in Wisconsin saw my kid,” stated the mother.
This woman, as well as many others, said something needs to be done to ensure that tech companies will work to tackle this growing problem.
The report noted that current U.S. regulation requires tech companies only to report child abuse imagery when they discover it and do not require firms to actively search for it. Furthermore, these tech firms are unlikely to search for it and keep their sites safe, since it would require revenue to issue a task force that would find predators accounts and shut their own users down.
“Parents should make sure there’s a good avenue to communicate and if they have that conversation, the children know they can come to them,” stated FBI Special Agent in Charge Calvin Shivers.
Officials continue to warn parents to monitor their children if they’re online and have an open dialogue with them about internet safety.